Have you ever been stuck in traffic behind a car with one of those custom license plates like “LUVYZ1” and you’re scratching your head for a couple of minutes trying to figure out what on Earth it’s supposed to mean?
I was doing that earlier today on my way home and it made me think of a computer tip I thought I’d share with you to make your computer more organized and easier to use.
Back in the day when I first got into computers, the names of files on your computer were a lot like custom car license plates: you had a very limited amount of space to name the file and so you were forced to come up with weird
abbreviations just like you see on license plates.
To this day I still have a few really old Word files which have names such as “MITYLIKE.DOC” where I had to try to describe what the file was in the 8 characters I was given to do so. (If you’re not sure what I mean by “characters”, that’s the term that includes letters, numbers, and punctuation)
If you’re wondering, the above example is a short story I wrote in 1990 or so which was inspired by The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a classic short story written by James Thurber which also made into a film starring Danny Kaye.
Knowing that, you can see why I named the file MITYLIKE, and can probably also see why I wished I could’ve given it a longer and more descriptive name?
So what does this have to do with make your computer more organized and easier you might be wondering?
Well, something I’ve noticed over the many years I’ve been helping people with their computers is that most people don’t take advantage of the ability to use descriptive file names, and they’re making things harder on themselves as a result.
Now this is no criticism at all if you’re making this computer mistake yourself, but that’s why I’m writing this to help you.
You see, in the 1990s, the maximum length for file names went up a lot from the old 8 character name plus 3 character extension for DOS or Windows PCs, and the 31 character limit older Apple Mac computers had to a total of 255 characters.
(The “extension” is the end part after the dot, such as .DOC which is used to tell the computer what type of file it is, such as a Word DOCument.)
These “long file names” give you the ability to give useful & descriptive file names which can make your life easier when organizing and locating files.
You can name (or rename) a file by clicking once on the name of the file (not the icon!) pausing a moment, then clicking again and you should see the name get highlighted.
Note: this is *not* the same as double-clicking the file name. This is a single click, a short pause, then a second single click with the left button on your mouse.
You can then type in a nice long descriptive file name such as “Unnamed short story inspired by “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.doc”, which I’m sure you’ll agree is much easier to recognize than “MITYLIKE.DOC”!
And don’t worry about counting the letters in the name while you’re typing; your computer won’t let you type any more than you’re allowed.
I also suggest you might put a date or maybe a version number into the file name, especially if you keep different drafts of a document. If you do this you’ll want to write the date something like 7-7-2011 rather than 7/7/2011 as the / character is not allowed on Windows PCs (and I recommend this for Mac users too to make the name more compatible in case you ever send it to a Windows computer).
One last thing is, as I mentioned above, the extension (such as .doc) is there for a reason and you should leave that part as-is. Many newer computers will automatically help you avoid accidentally changing that part of the file name, but not all do.
By taking advantage of the long filenames allowed by modern computers, you can help yourself more easily recognize what a file is, and it can help turn up the file you’re looking for if you do a search on your computer for information you’re needing, that photo you want to look at, and so on.
Hopefully these tips will help you get more out of your computer and make your life a little easier. I’ve used these suggestions myself for many years now and and very glad that I did. Really has made my life easier on many occasion.
Remember, if you do need more help with this, I show you step-by-step how to do all of this and much more on my computer basics video lesson CDs.
If you don’t already have these CDs, they are video recordings of the actual screens of the computer where you get to see each click of the mouse and sit back and watch every step while my voice comes from your computer’s speakers, walking you through the entire thing in simple Plain English.
While each easy lesson CD has an hour of material, individual lessons are 30 minutes or less, with most being just 5-15 minutes long so it’s easy to learn at your own pace.
You can find out more on my site and even place a secure order if you want by using one of the following two links:
Fundamental Windows Computer Skills – Training CDs
Fundamental Apple Mac Computer Skills – Training CDs
Either way, until next time, take care, and enjoy,
Plain English Simplicity For This Complex Modern World